SCS Faculty Candidate

  • Gates Hillman Centers
  • ASA Conference Room 6115
  • Mitsui Career Development Professor
  • Comparative Media Studies/Writing Department
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Scaling Up Behavioral Science Interventions in Online Education

Online education is rapidly expanding in response to rising demand for higher and continuing education, but many online students struggle to achieve their educational goals. Several behavioral science interventions have shown promise for aiding students’ persistence and completion in a handful of courses. In this study, we tested a set of behavioral interventions over two-and-a-half years, with ¼ million students, from nearly every country, across 248 online courses offered by Harvard, MIT, and Stanford.  Our iterative scientific process -- cyclically pre-registering new hypotheses in between waves of data collection -- enabled us to identify individual and contextual conditions under which the interventions can benefit students in developing countries in courses with an achievement gap between students in more and less developed countries. Our findings encourage funding agencies and researchers conducting large-scale field trials to reevaluate study guidelines that emphasize static investigations of average treatment effect over dynamic investigations of contextual heterogeneity.

Justin Reich is the Mitsui Career Development Professor in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab. The Teaching Systems Lab designs, implements, and researches the future of teacher learning. He is the instructor for four free, openly-licensed MOOCs about change leadership in education. He was previously the Richard L. Menschel HarvardX Research Fellow, where he led the initiative to study large-scale open online learning through HarvardX, and a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His writings have appeared in Science, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Educational Researcher, the Washington PostInside Higher Ed, the Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. Justin started his career teaching wilderness medicine, and later taught high school world history and history electives, and coached wrestling and outdoor activities.

Faculty Host: Chinmay Kulkarni

Human-Computer Interaction Institute

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